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The Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway was opened in stages between 1841 and 1845 between Sheffield and Manchester via Ashton-Under-Lyne.
1820s A number of proposals had been made for canals and cable railway to link the cities of Sheffield and Manchetsr had been proposed costing upwards of £500,000 but had bot been realised
1830 He was initially ignored, but the building of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway attracted greater interest, and with the support of Liverpool financiers, the prospectus of the line - to be called the "Sheffield and Manchester Railway" - was issued in August 1830, with George Stephenson was appointed to be the engineer.
Sanderson became concerned at the severity of the proposed route via Whaley Bridge and over Rushop Edge into the Hope Valley. He suggested another, via Penistone which would involve less tunnelling and have gentler gradients which could be worked by adhesion locomotives. After much indecision, the project was abandoned, with the Sheffield and Manchester being wound up.
1835 Charles Vignoles was asked to examine another route, and a new company, the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway was formed, this time via Woodhead and Penistone. The line could be worked by adhesion and required only a two mile tunnel at Woodhead. Vignoles and Joseph Locke were asked to make independent surveys and in October met to reconcile any differences, at which time they decided that a longer tunnel would reduce the gradients involved.
1837 The line obtained its Act of Incorporation in Parliament, the only opposition coming from the Manchester and Birmingham Railway with whom it was agreed that the line from Ardwick would be shared as it passed into a joint station in Manchester.
Vignoles set to work on the tunnel arranging for it to be marked over the ridge and for the boring of a series of vertical shafts followed by a horizontal driftway along the line of the first bore. Enough land was purchased for two tunnels but only one would be built initially.
1838 For the line itself, the first ground was ceremonially cut near the western end of the tunnel on 1st., October, 1838.
1839 The line had been marked out, land purchase was proceeding well, and construction had begun with Thomas Brassey as contractor. However a number of shareholders were defaulting on their payments. Moreover, the relationship between the Board and its engineer were becoming increasingly strained. Vignoles resigned and Joseph Locke was asked if he would take over. Locke replied that he was already well occupied with two other railways and that he would act in a consultative capacity if the Board would appoint resident engineers for the day to day supervision of the work.
1841 Locke reported that the tunnel would probably cost £207,000, about twice the original estimate, because the amount of water encountered required the purchase of more powerful pumps. However, the line as far as Godley Toll Bar was ready for use and was opened on 11th. November using a temporary terminus at Travis Street in Manchester.
1842 Manchester Store Street (now Piccadilly) was brought into use with Gorton and Ardwick shortly after. The line then comprised Ardwick, Gorton, Fairfield, Ashton, Dukinfield, Newton & Hyde, Broadbottom and Glossop.
1844 The line was opened as far as the Woodhead Tunnel, with stations at Hadfield and Woodhead.
1845 Meanwhile sufficiently powerful pumps had been installed to make good progress in the tunnel, and work on the track to the eastern end from Sheffield was proceeding. This part of the line finally opened on 14, June 1845 with stations at Dunford Bridge, Penistone, Wortley, Deepcar, Oughty Bridge, Wadsley Bridge and Sheffield.
1845 Finally in December of that year the tunnel was ready for the Inspector of Railways. Meanwhile tests were carried out on the Ashton Viaduct which had collapsed during construction, killing seventeen workers. The formal opening of the completed line took place on 22, December, 1845 including the tunnel which was then the longest in the country. Two extra stations were added at the site of previous coal sidings at Oxspring and Thurgoland.
Besides Woodhead, there were short tunnels at Audenshaw Road, Hattersley (two), Thurgoland and Bridgehouses. Among the bridges the two most notable were the Etherow Viaduct and the Dinting Vale Viaduct, the latter with five central and eleven approach arches. The line initially terminated at a temporary station at Bridgehouses until Victoria was built in 1851.
Even while the line was being built, the directors were looking at ways to extend the system. The original Sheffield and Manchester plan had been to connect to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The SA&MR approached with the idea of making a connection, but were rebuffed.
Another approach in partnership with the London and Birmingham was accepted by the L&M and the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway was put before Parliament in 1845, though it was some years later before it was completed. Meanwhile the Ashton to Stalybridge branch, which had been part of the original plan, but had been deferred due to lack of finances, was completed in 1845. In the same year a branch was built to Glossop itself, which needed no Act, since it was financed by the Duke of Norfolk and ran over his land, the original Glossop station being renamed Dinting.
In 1844 representatives of the proposed Sheffield and Lincolnshire Junction Railway from the MS&LR at Sheffield to Gainsborough, met with the board of the latter, who agreed to lease and operate once constructed. Plans were also afoot for the Barnsley Junction Railway to connect Oxspring with Royston on the North Midland Railway.
At about that time the Manchester and Birmingham Railway made tentative offers, in conjunction with the Midland Railway to lease the line. In spite of the Manchester and Leeds Railway making a counter offer, the directors agreed to take the proposal to Parliament. However the M&B was becoming closely associated with the London and Birmingham Railway and due to the energetic intervention of one Dr. Holland, who, moreover suggested that the Midland had no real interest in the SA&MR's welfare, the Bill was cancelled.
It was obvious, however, to the SA&MR's directors that the way forward was to expand by amalgamating with other lines, after the pattern being set by the Midland under George Hudson. In 1845, they gained shareholders approval for the MSJ&A already mentioned, the S&LR, and also the proposed Barnsley Junction Railway. They would also lease the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway and Canal Company. Also contemplated was a line from Dukinfield to New Mills connecting with the Manchester and Birmingham, and an extension of the Barnsley Junction to Pontefract joining the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole Railway. Another proposed line was the Huddersfield and Sheffield Junction Railway.
At a meeting at Normanton on September, 1845 agreement was reached for the SA&MR to amalgamate with the Sheffield and Lincolnshire and the Great Grimsby and Sheffield. To this would be added the Grimsby Docks Company and the East Lincolnshire Railway which was planned between Grimsby and Lincoln, although the latter, in the end, was taken over by the Great Northern.
1846 July. The merger received the Royal Assent.
1847 January 1st. The line became the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway.